Charles Taylor Denies Cannibalism Accusations

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor said Monday he was sickened by allegations at his war crimes trial that he ate human flesh, calling testimony by a former aide the lies of an illiterate man.

"I felt like throwing up when I heard that nonsense, and I
think even the prosecution were shocked at listening to that
foolishness," he told the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The
Hague.

Taylor, beginning his third week on the stand, said the stories
of cannibalism by a former officer in his militia were "statements
of lies, statements of deceit and deception."

He also denied trading arms for diamonds with Sierra Leone
rebels, a central allegation of his indictment.

Taylor is accused of arming and supplying Sierra Leone militias
whose signature crime during the 1991-2002 civil war was hacking
off the limbs of civilians to terrorize them into submission. He
has denied all 11 counts of murder, rape and recruiting child
soldiers in the neighboring country.

Taylor was responding to testimony last year from Joseph Marzah,
who said Taylor ordered his men to eat the flesh of his enemies,
including African peacekeepers and U.N. soldiers. Marzah said that
would "set an example for the people to be afraid."

Marzah, also known as "Zigzag," described himself as a former
chief of operations for Taylor and commander of a death squad.

Using maps of the border region, Taylor also testified Monday he
couldn't have traded arms because neither of the two roads that led
to the Sierra Leone border could support vehicles laden with
weapons, as alleged by a prosecution witness.

"No road existed then, and no road exists now," he told the
court. The only access was by rough roads surfaced with rocks and
dirt.

Varmuyan Sherif, a former Taylor bodyguard. testified last year
that he escorted pickup trucks to the border loaded with automatic
rifle ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades. The court was shown
a picture of Sherif with a truck allegedly photographed on the
border.

"I say bluntly, it's a lie," Taylor said.

He also described as "ludicrous" Sherif's allegation that he
accepted diamonds from the Sierra Leone rebels, who sometimes sent
them in mayonnaise jars.

"Liberia is a very rich country" with abundant diamonds, gold
deposits and uranium, Taylor said, adding that he had been
negotiating with the U.S. company Halliburton to develop offshore
oil reserves.

"It is beyond my imagination that anyone would believe that the
president of Liberia would go into Sierra Leone because he wants to
terrorize the people and take their wealth," he said.


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